Weekly Roundup of Archaeology, History and Historical Fiction July 1-7

photo Bodiam Castle, photo by Josep Renalias on Wikimedia Commons

Bodiam Castle, photo by Josep Renalias on Wikimedia Commons

Some posts I enjoyed this week:

This is pure fun. Castles and why they have all those clockwise turning stairs and other tricky defenses. If medieval life and history or sword fantasies make you smile, this quick post will too. “The Secrets of Medieval Castles: Stairs are built in a clockwise fashion for a very good reason” Moats and death trap main gates included, too 🙂

Click here for The Vintage News “The Secrets of Medieval Castles: Stairs are Built in a clockwise fashion for a very good reason”


A PBS interview with Colm Toibin about his book House of Names, a retelling of Clytemnestra’s murder of Agamemnon on his victorious return from the Trojan War that in turn leads to her murder by her son Orestes. Toibin sees this cycle of myths as the origin of all civil wars, the first murder that leads to the never-ending cycle. He compares the Greek story to the Syrian civil war and the troubles in Northern Ireland. I’ll have to read this novel. Intriguing. The interviewer brings up the gods at one point and Toibin says he had Clytemnestra dismiss the gods and act on her own because “It’s very hard to put the gods into a contemporary novel.” I just returned from a lively panel discussion that raised a similar point, how to deal with those ancient religious systems in our current fiction. I don’t think the panelists would be so quick to toss them overboard in our characters’ ways of thinking and believing. I also found intriguing that Toibin says his books start from a first sentence that “contains the full weight of the novel.” He can’t work on a book until he’s got that first sentence and then he has to go at it full speed. The first sentence of his novel: “I have been acquainted with the smell of death.” For me, the process works in reverse. When the book is close to done and I truly see the arc of theme, then I can write a first sentence with the weight of the total work. Interesting that he starts with a full sense of that. When you read, do you look to the first sentence to contain the whole? Click here for PBS News Hour Interview with Com Toibin

book cover image For the WinnerI loved the movie Wonder Woman, as did many others. On For Winter Nights, one of my favorite reviewing blogs, here’s a guest post by Emily Hauser about “the Real Wonder Woman,” Atalanta, the mythic woman she has portrayed in her novel For the Winner. I reviewed Emily’s book earlier on my website. I thoroughly enjoy her novels set within the context of Greek mythology. Her definition and vision of a wonder woman is worth examining. Click here for The Real Wonder Woman, guest post by Emily Hauser author of For the Winner on For Winter Nights blog 

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